We will increase degree completion through high quality and lifelong academic options, focused learning and elimination of barriers to access and success for all Georgians.
Given how higher education benefits individuals and their communities, as well as the increasing demand for college-educated workers in a rapidly changing job market, it is critical to prioritize degree completion. The emphasis on lifelong academic options requires more flexible and adaptable degree programs, as well as teaching our students to be flexible and adaptable lifelong learners. We will accomplish this through new online learning opportunities and new programs like the Nexus Degree, which directly link to high-demand careers. We will focus instruction to ensure academic programs are connected to the world our students enter. Whether it is to master a specific skill set or deepen critical thinking, we know students learn more effectively when they understand the purpose of assignments, courses and degree programs. Moreover, we will instill a passion for learning and equip our students with essential skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration that are necessary for success in work and life. Finally, we must provide support for faculty in their critical role of improving student success.
Our definition of success cannot be limited to academic achievement. We need to prioritize students’ overall well-being, from mental health to financial stability. We know that students’ ability to pay for college, and their sense of financial security, are critical to student success. Fostering success in college also requires collaborating with the K-12 education system to ensure students are not only academically prepared for college, but also socially and emotionally equipped to navigate the expectations of higher education.
Reaching our student success goal also requires us to prioritize diversity and inclusion. We will remove barriers to access and success for student populations who historically have been underserved such as low-income students, racial and ethnic minority students, rural students and first-generation college students. To meet the state’s attainment goal, we must do much more to ensure our delivery of programs and services also meets the needs of adult and working students. And while we focus on the state of Georgia, our institutions serve students from near and far. As we reach our student success goal, we will have impacts across the nation and globe.
Strategies for Student Success
USG institutions have collaborated the past two years to implement Momentum Year, an evidence-based set of practices that support undergraduates in meeting their academic and personal goals and graduating on time. Beginning Fall 2019, all incoming freshmen must choose an academic focus area based on their selected major or broad area of interest. The focus area informs student advising, including an academic program map to guide students’ course choices. This map supports the completion in the first year of at least 30 credit hours, enabling on-time degree completion. This plan includes core classes in English and mathematics (plus any required learning support), and nine credit hours in the student’s selected major or academic focus area, giving the student a head start on learning about their interest. In addition, USG is working through the Chancellor’s Learning Scholars program to assist faculty with implementing classroom strategies that better support students. Enhancing students’ belief that they can increase their academic abilities has been shown to have as much effect on success as academic preparation.
While much work has been done to implement Momentum Year, campuses must also remove barriers to students completing their academic maps through enhanced advising, the use of predictive analytics to identify students in need of additional support and providing courses when and how students need them. Finally, USG will broaden the Momentum Year initiative into a systemwide Momentum Approach, applying the same principles of purposeful choice, productive academic mindset and full course loads to a student’s entire postsecondary career.
Expand Distance Education Opportunities
Providing adequate access to higher education — wherever and whenever a student needs it — requires that USG expand distance education opportunities. The system has focused its efforts the last few years on eCampus, a consortium housed at the University of West Georgia that enables systemwide affordable online education offerings. eCampus supports delivery of eCore, USG’s digital version of its entire general education curriculum, and eMajor, which includes select online academic programs in high demand career areas. Still, USG must improve student access to all online academic opportunities and find additional ways for Georgians to take advantage of digital higher education from wherever they live in the state. USG is in the process of overhauling Georgia ONmyLINE, the systemwide web portal that allows users to research the full portfolio of online courses and programs offered by USG institutions. The new portal will be more user-friendly, contain updated and comprehensive consumer-focused information about courses and programs and improve enrollment options via direct links to applications and automated responses to inquiries by campus personnel.
Supporting geographic access to educational opportunities, however, requires more than online offerings. USG is also expanding virtual instruction across the state. Development of more classrooms configured to support virtual instruction provides a cost-effective means to deliver needed undergraduate and graduate programs throughout Georgia. This allows students to take advantage of academic programs on other USG campuses without having to leave their community. In addition, we are researching how the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS), a unit of USG, can help support citizens’ access to lifelong educational opportunities. GPLS already supports access to information for all Georgians through libraries across the state as well as online resources. Better use of this resource allows USG to increase availability of academic programming to meet citizen and employer needs.